By President Gordon B. Hinckley
President of the Church
General Conference – April, 2004
My dear young friends, you beautiful young women, we have heard stirring testimonies and wonderful talks from this presidency of the Young Women. What gifted and able leaders they are. Behind them stands a general board of the same quality, and these give leadership to this great program for young women that extends throughout the world.
It is now my turn to speak to you, and I scarcely know what to say. You overwhelm me with your numbers. This great Conference Center contains thousands. There are overflow buildings nearby. These services are reaching into meetinghouses in many nations of this great, broad earth.
There are so many of you. My heart reaches out to you. I appreciate you. I honor you. I respect you. What a tremendous force for good you are.
You are the strength of the present, the hope of the future.
You are the sum of all the generations that have gone before, the promise of all that will come hereafter.
You must know, as you’ve been told, that you are not alone in this world. There are hundreds of thousands of you. You live in many lands. You speak various languages. And every one of you has something divine within you.
You are second to none. You are daughters of God.
There has come to you as your birthright something beautiful and sacred and divine. Never forget that. Your Eternal Father is the great Master of the universe. He rules over all, but He also will listen to your prayers as His daughter and hear you as you speak with Him. He will answer your prayers. He will not leave you alone.
In my quiet moments, I think of the future with all of its wonderful possibilities and with all of its terrible temptations. I wonder what will happen to you in the next 10 years. Where will you be? What will you be doing? That will depend on the choices you make, some of which may seem unimportant at the time but which will have tremendous consequences.
Someone has said, “It may make a difference to all eternity whether we do right or wrong today” (James Freeman Clarke, in Elbert Hubbard’s Scrap Book , 95).
You have the potential to become anything to which you set your mind. You have a mind and a body and a spirit. With these three working together, you can walk the high road that leads to achievement and happiness. But this will require effort and sacrifice and faith.
Among other things, I must remind you that you must get all of the education that you possibly can. Life has become so complex and competitive. You cannot assume that you have entitlements due you. You will be expected to put forth great effort and to use your best talents to make your way to the most wonderful future of which you are capable. Occasionally, there will likely be serious disappointments. But there will be helping hands along the way, many such, to give you encouragement and strength to move forward.
I visited the hospital the other day to see a dear friend. I observed the various nurses who were on duty. They were extremely able. They impressed me as knowing everything that was going on and what to do about it. They had been well schooled, and it showed. A framed motto was on the wall of each room. It read, “We strive for excellence.”
What a tremendous difference training makes. Training is the key to opportunity. It brings with it the challenge of increasing knowledge and the strength and power of discipline. Perhaps you do not have the funds to get all the schooling you would desire. Make your money go as far as you can, and take advantage of scholarships, grants, and loans within your capacity to repay.
It is for this reason that the Perpetual Education Fund was established. We recognized that a few dollars could make a world of difference in the opportunities for young men and young women to secure needed training. The beneficiary secures the training and repays the loan so someone else can have the same opportunity.
Thus far our experience indicates that the training results in compensation three or four times what it was without training. Think of that!
While this program is not available everywhere, it is now in place where some of you live, and if available, it could prove to be a great blessing in your life.
As you walk the road of life, be careful of your friends. They can make you or break you. Be generous in helping the unfortunate and those in distress. But bind to you friends of your own kind, friends who will encourage you, stand with you, live as you desire to live; who will enjoy the same kind of entertainment; and who will resist the evil that you determine to resist.
To accomplish His plan of happiness, the Great Creator planted within us an instinct that makes boys interested in girls and girls interested in boys. That powerful inclination can lead to beautiful experiences, or it can lead to terribly ugly experiences. As we look out over the world, it seems that morality has been cast aside. The violation of old standards has become common. Studies, one after another, show that there has been an abandonment of time-tested principles. Self-discipline has been forgotten, and promiscuous indulgence has become widespread.
But, my dear friends, we cannot accept that which has become common in the world. Yours, as members of this Church, is a higher standard and more demanding. It declares as a voice from Sinai that thou shalt not indulge. You must keep control of your desires. For you there is no future in any other course. I should modify that to say that the Lord has provided for repentance and forgiveness. Nonetheless, yielding to temptation can become like a wound that seems never to heal and always to leave an ugly scar.
Modesty in dress and manner will assist in protecting against temptation. It may be difficult to find modest clothing, but it can be found with enough effort. I sometimes wish every girl had access to a sewing machine and training in how to use it. She could then make her own attractive clothing. I suppose this is an unrealistic wish. But I do not hesitate to say that you can be attractive without being immodest. You can be refreshing and buoyant and beautiful in your dress and in your behavior. Your appeal to others will come of your personality, which is the sum of your individual characteristics. Be happy. Wear a smile. Have fun. But draw some rigid parameters, a line in the sand, as it were, beyond which you will not go.
The Lord speaks of those who refuse counsel and who “stumble and fall when the storms descend, and the winds blow, and the rains descend, and beat upon their house” (D&C 90:5).
Stay away from sleazy entertainment. It may be attractive, but in all too many cases it is degrading. I do not wish to be prudish about this. I do not wish to be regarded as a killjoy. I do not wish to be thought of as an old man who knows nothing about youth and their problems. I think I do know something about these things, and it is out of my heart and my love that I plead with you to stay on the high road. Create fun with your good friends. Sing and dance, swim and hike, become involved in projects together, and live life with zest and excitement.
Respect your bodies. The Lord has described them as temples. So many these days disfigure their bodies with tattoos. How shortsighted. These markings last for life. Once in place, they cannot be removed except through a difficult and costly process. I cannot understand why any girl would subject herself to such a thing. I plead with you to avoid disfigurement of this kind.
And while I am speaking of things to avoid, I again mention drugs. Please do not experiment with them. Stay away from them as if they were a foul disease, for such they really are.
Never assume that you can make it alone. You need the help of the Lord. Never hesitate to get on your knees in some private place and speak with Him. What a marvelous and wonderful thing is prayer. Think of it. We can actually speak with our Father in Heaven. He will hear and respond, but we need to listen to that response. Nothing is too serious and nothing too unimportant to share with Him. He has said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). He continues, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).
That simply means that when all is said and done, His way is easy to bear, and His path is easy to trod. Paul wrote to the Romans, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17).
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ must be a beacon light before you, a polar star in your sky.
President George Albert Smith used to talk of staying on the Lord’s side of the line. How very important that is.
Many years ago I told a story in conference that I think I will repeat. It is a story about a baseball player. I realize that some of you in various parts of the world do not know much about baseball. You do not even care about it. But this story brings with it a tremendous lesson.
The event occurred in 1912. The World Series was being played, and this was the final game to determine the winner of the series. The score was 2-1 in favor of the New York Giants, who were in the field. The Boston Red Sox were at bat. The man at bat knocked a high, arching fly. Two New York players ran for it. Fred Snodgrass in center field signaled to his associate that he would take it. He came squarely under the ball, which fell into his glove. But he did not hold it there. The ball went right through his grasp and fell to the ground. A howl went up in the stands. The fans could not believe that Snodgrass had dropped the ball. He had caught hundreds of fly balls before. But now, at this most crucial moment, he had failed to hold the ball, and the Red Sox went on to win the world championship.
Snodgrass came back the following season and played brilliant ball for nine more years. He lived to be 86 years of age, dying in 1974. But after that one slip, for 62 years, whenever he was introduced to anybody, the expected response was, “Oh, yes, you’re the one who dropped the ball.”
Unfortunately, we see people dropping the ball all the time. There is the student who thinks she is doing well enough and then, under the stress of the final exam, fails. There is the driver who is extremely careful. But, in one single moment of carelessness, he becomes involved in a tragic accident. There is the employee who is trusted and who does well. Then, in an instant, he is faced with a temptation he cannot resist. A mark is placed upon him which never seems entirely to disappear.
There is the outburst of anger that destroys in a single moment a long-standing friendship. There is the little sin that somehow grows and eventually leads to separation from the Church.
There is the life lived with decency; then comes the one destructive, ever-haunting, one-time moral breakdown, the memory of which seems never to fade.
On all such occasions, someone dropped the ball. A person may have had plenty of self-confidence. He or she may have been a bit arrogant, thinking, “I do not really have to try.” But when he or she reached for the ball, it passed through the glove and fell to the ground. There is repentance, yes. There is forgiveness, of course. There is a desire to forget. But somehow, the time the ball was dropped is long remembered.
Now, you dear, wonderful girls, I speak with a father’s love for you. I thank you that you have traveled so well so far. I plead with you to never let down, to establish a purpose and hold to the line and move forward undeterred by any opposing temptation or force that may cross your path.
I pray that your lives will not be wasted but that they may be fruitful of great and everlasting good. The years will pass, and I will not be here to see what you have done with your lives. But there will be many others, oh so many others, who will be counting on you, whose very peace and happiness will depend upon what you do. And above them all will be your Father in Heaven, who will ever love you as His daughter.
I wish to emphasize that if you make a mistake, it can be forgiven, it can be overcome, it can be lived above. You can go on to success and happiness. But I hope that such an experience will not come your way, and I am confident it will not if you will set your mind and pray for the strength to walk the high road, which at times may be lonely but which will lead to peace and happiness and joy supernal in this life and everlastingly hereafter.
For this I pray in the sacred name of Him who gave His life to make it possible for us to live eternally, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.